The Village Telco is an initiative to build low-cost community telephone network hardware and software that can be set up in minutes anywhere in the world. No mobile phone towers or land lines are required. The Village Telco uses the latest Open Source telephony software and low cost wireless mesh networking technology to deliver affordable telephony anywhere.
The project consists of two principal elements:
Mesh Potato – A low-cost wireless mesh device you can plug a regular phone into
The Village Telco Entrepreneur (VTE) Server
Based on popular Open Source applications, the Village Telco Entrepreneur (VTE) Server combines network management, upstream voice connectivity, and pay-as-you-go billing management to create a simple system for an entrepreneur or community organization to sustainably deliver voice and Internet services.
The Mesh Potato is a combination of a low-cost wireless Access Point (AP) running mesh networking software with an Analog Telephony Adapter (ATA). Mesh Potatoes automatically connect with each other, forming a “cloud” of Mesh Potatoes. Each Mesh Potato relays the phone calls for other Mesh Potatoes, greatly extending the range of the network. Plug an ordinary telephone into one Mesh Potato and you can instantly make a phone call to any other Mesh Potato on the network.
Why Build a Village Telco?
For millions affordable access to communications remains elusive either because they live in remote areas where mobile telecommunication operators have not reached or because the available access is too expensive. The rapid spread of mobile phones is remarkable. However in many parts of the world high call costs mean that people have to make hard choices about when to use the phone.
In Africa the average person spends more than 50% of their disposable income on mobile services. Open Source telephony software combined with the latest wireless networking technology creates the potential for people to operate their own community phone systems. While designed for the developing world, the Village Telco has application anywhere where people wish to take control of their own telephone infrastructure.